Konstantin’s study
by Thomas Wagner
Aug 2, 2016

Every person has a room within themselves,” Franz Kafka jotted down almost exactly a century ago in one of his octavo exercise books. Is it not just our rooms, apartments, offices or houses that we give a modern or historical, a flexible or immutable outfit? Have we not always, be it by virtue of origin or the age, owing to a lack of money or a craving for status, not only furnished an outer shell for ourselves, but also our inside, the space of the “Ego”? Are both the outside and inside furnishings and the activities involved not perhaps connected? And what sort of space is it that we bear within ourselves? It’s a highly exciting angle to take, and you need but a little imagination and to enjoy speculating about it. In fact, it could soon be a party game.

The outer world of the inner world

Should you, for example, try and say what the room might look like that Konstantin Grcic bears within himself, then without treading on his toes and at the latest since his 2014 “Panorama” show, you would probably quickly cite St. Jerome and the representation of his “study” by Antonello da Messina. The painting, produced in 1475, now hangs in the National Gallery in London – and has fascinated Konstantin Grcic for decades now.

It is no coincidence that he used it as the frontispiece for his catalog on the show and it also acted as role model in one way or another for his attempt to design a “Life Space” appropriate to today’s day and age (a space with a view of an airport runway). Or is the Father of the Church and Humanist, seated at a writing lectern on a platform in the midst of a large Gothic hall, sitting in his study, not as connected to the world as he is isolated from it, just the way we are today? Perhaps the media pool is simply a bit larger, more comprehensive, but hasn’t the need for withdrawal and concentration in the large global edifice (for all the email, Internet and Plug & Play) remained largely the same since the Late Antiquity of the 4th century? And what does reside actually mean? What covert or overt influences come to bear? How does one fit out one’s residence in the world? Was it not St. Augustine, a contemporary of Jerome’s, who was one of the first to explore his own interiority as if it were a chamber? How does residing combine with thought in the first place? How to create one’s own space in the big picture, and what role does furniture play here?

Furniture for a contemporary Jerome

Furniture made in a small series and displayed in a gallery offers a welcome opportunity to toy around with and test the one or other inspiration or obsession as well as the one or other manufacturing process and material beyond all real production conditions. It would seem here as if with the five objects he recently presented at Paris’ Galerie Kreo Konstantin Grcic was especially interested in how intimacy and concentration can meld in the form of a piece of furniture. How can we create a space within a space and what consequences does this have?

Specifically Grcic not only resorts to five different processes and materials – wood, aluminum, Minero® (a composite of concrete and resin), marble and for 3D printing a mixture of sand and artificial resin – but also plays through different possible settings for being concentrated and with yourself without forgetting a sense of connection to the one or the others. The one object is suitable for two persons who communicate with each other, the other screens the user off from the surroundings, a third secures you safely somewhere between standing and sitting, a fourth offers different positions, and the fifth forces the user to think clearly about where she or he is and the requisite posture.

The home office with a bit of a difference

Konstantin Grcic has always had his own ideas on names and subtly and subcutaneously always revealed the one or other historical source that inspired him. Indeed, as one of the world’s most successful designers, he always works with a view to and in relation to historical precedents and role models, none of whom he dumbly reveres, but all of whom he investigates to see whether they offer solutions that can bear fruit in the contemporary world.

Grcic has, with a witty nod to St. Jerome and by playing through different versions of the space within a space, developed or reconstructed a grammar of concentration and of work, condensing them in an object that is both furniture and sculpture at once. As a result, and very similar to the paintings that show St. Jerome in his “studiolo” (and by no means just that by da Messina), what we get presented with is not just a space within a space, but also different takes on the self and the world, stances that mingle easily.

How should I position myself spatially? How do I create my own study within the space? What kind of location is appropriate for me and my activity? What references does my furniture create and impose on the study and myself? What social interaction does it predefine, support or prevent?
Such questions are neither historical nor humanist exaggerations, but have long since been right at the top of the agenda when it comes, thanks to new technologies, to working at home, in one’s own four walls, or to one’s own shell within the immense communicative bustle of open-plan office floors – screened off and yet connected to the entire world. “Every person has a room within themselves,” Franz Kafka jotted down almost exactly a century ago in one of his octavo exercise books.